We took the 9 night trip from Bayonne, NJ to Portland & Bar Harbor Maine, St. John, NB, Halifax, Nova Scotia and Boston, Mass., with 3 sea days. The trip was made with 3000+ mostly older folks with only 18 children on board the RCL Explorer of the Seas. Needless to say, the hallways were quiet at night but the buffet was packed to the gills for seemingly hours on end at breakfast and lunch as some cruisers seemed to set up camp at their tables. Numerous announcements were made for passengers to release the table after they were done eating so others could enjoy the buffet. Due to the number of announcements, this must be a constant and continuing problem. Some of the passengers complied but most just sat at the table for long periods of time. No real effort was made by staff to move them along.
Embarkation from Cape Liberty was simple, quick and painless. This experience was comparable to most cruises we have taken and we were on the ship in no time. The lifeboat drill went quickly at 4:00PM and there was no need to haul the life jacket from the cabin as they are not required for the drill. We sailed promptly at 5:00PM out of New Jersey/New York just clearing the Verrazano Bridge by what looked like 6 feet. It is a nice start to the trip.
Cabin was a balcony D2 class on the 9th deck, mid-ship. Typical cabin with nice large balcony and a sliding door that actually locks down tight to keep noise and wind sounds out. The ship is showing it age and the carpets were a bit worn, the bathroom had some minor rust near the floor and the TV was an old large tube type that only sporadically picked up ESPN, Fox and CNN. The railing on the balcony was weathered, gray and splintered but the ship s due for 14 day dry dock at the end of the year and I'm sure it will be sanded and varnished at that time. The bed was hard and uncomfortable for me, but the lines were soft and silky and comforter warm. 4 pillow are also provided. The room steward, Heathcliff, was the best we have ever had on any of the 8 cruises we have taken and kept the room up quickly and efficiently. The bathroom was always clean, the towels were always refreshed and the ice bucket always filled with fresh ice. Heathcliff was like a ghost, as soon as we left the cabin for shore, a meal or a stroll, he must have snuck in because the room was always perfect on our return, no matter how long we were gone.
The general condition of the ship is average. Some carpets in halls and stairwells are worn and dirty, chairs are worn and uncomfortable in public areas. The ship was, however, dust and dirt free in eating areas, tiled walkways and outside decks.
Dining was good to fair. About 6 of the 9 nights the food was acceptable. The other 3 nights were poor. We ate once in the $20/person Portofino and had the worst meal of the cruise. Don't waste your money here. Go to Johnny Rockets for a burger and fries and ice cream sundae for $5, a much better value and fun too. Service in the main dining room was also the best we have ever had on a cruise. We ate on Deck 5 of the 3 deck dining room each night (the dining room covers decks 3, 4 and 5). The waiter Deetoo, and his assistant, were wonderful. They delivered food hot, fresh and politely. They made good suggestions on the fare to choose that night and were almost always right on spot. Great experience.
Ports-of-Call were good even though weather was cool, foggy and rainy, but it was expected since it is October in the northeast and Canada. Portland and Bar Harbor were fun, Halifax was very nice (be sure to see Peggy's Cove)and Boston is always fun for history, shopping and food. All the ports were safe and clean and I would suggest just hiring a car and have them tour you around. You can do better than the ship excursion prices and you do not have to endure a bus load of 40 people at each stop and can proceed at you leisure.
The entertainment was mediocre. The comedians were all good and the ice show was wonderful. See it twice if you can, although they only give out one ticket per cruiser per cruise, many folks do not go and you can get extra "left over" tickets for additional performances. The singing and dancing troop was bad and the singing horrible. We walked out on two shows.
The end of the cruise was uneventful and we were off the ship in a very orderly fashion by 8:30AM with our luggage ready in a color coded area of the Cape Liberty cruise terminal.
Overall, my wife and I would cruise with Royal Caribbean again. This short distance cruise could have used two more ports as the sea days were boring and a waste of time. Royal Caribbean seemed to put these days in to help the art auction folks sell more prints, generate more bingo money and sell a few more drinks. We would have rather been on-shore somewhere, exploring the beautiful NE USA and Canada. We would not do this itinerary again. Once the Explorer of the Seas is "spiffed up" and renewed at dry dock, I'm sure she will once again be as beautiful and when she first set sail. I don't think it will take much to get it back to her original glory.